Tuesday, December 06, 2016

My Quilt for 2017 La Conner Quilt Museum Challenge

Robin Atkins, quilt for 2017 La Conner Quilt Museum challenge, detail
To be honest with you, the past two months (Oct. and Nov.) have been miserable for me because of the election campaign and results. Now, finally, the cloak of despair, the fog of depression, is lifting a little.

One evening, as I noticed the challenge kit from the La Conner Quilt Museum on top of my quilting to-do pile, a flicker of an idea passed through my brain. Then, as I awoke the next morning, the flicker became a small flame, which in turn lead me to accept an invitation to spend an afternoon quilting with some friends, which (in order to have something to work on) got me rooting through my fabric stash.

Now, quilters, beaders, and artists of all types, will recognize the phenomenon caused by physically touching your materials, supplies, and tools. Suddenly your wearisome thoughts of the election (or whatever else got you down) are gone! You fondle your stuff lovingly, and with great anticipation, you make the first cuts, fanning the flame, turning it into a nice warm fire. Ah, saved from the chilly fog, at last!

vintage quilt block, 11 inches square, hand pieced
My journey out of the fog began with this vintage block from a quilt that someone, somewhere, started long ago, but never finished. It, along with many others, was donated to the La Conner Quilt Museum. The Curator, Kathleen Kok, not knowing what she would do with all the vintage blocks donated over the years, just kept them in a corner waiting for an idea to form. And form it did!

Every year the Museum has a challenge as a fundraiser, showcasing the entries at the annual Quilt Festival. For 2017, the challenge theme is "Time" and the material provided in the kit is one of the vintage blocks from their collection. The block above is the one I picked. It is just so cheerful... how could I resist? Hand pieced, it wasn't perfectly sewn, but still I fell instantly in love with it. Mine for a $10 contribution!

Of course, it was just the block. In the photo above, I have already layered it with backing and batting, and then hand quilted it.

My idea is two-fold. (1) Since the "time" theme can be portrayed by a transition from these early fabrics to modern fabrics, I decided to repeat the block using Kaffe Fassett fabric scraps left over from my shimmer quilt. (2) Feeling powerless in the face of impending doom after the election, I had to find some ways to assert my beliefs, and this quilt was to be one of them. I've long been concerned about the ever-increasing world population, about all the small, yet constant ways overpopulation is damaging and destroying the natural systems of the planet. So the title will be: Under the Quilts, Time Flies, and Population GROWS. My idea is to illustrate this concept using both color and beads. You'll see.

First though, a few words about making the modern block. At first I tried to make a pattern for the "flower/star" by tracing one of the triangles from the back side. I hand-stitched the required 16 pieces together FOUR different times, varying the seam allowances each time, trying to get it to lie down flat. Obviously, I did not correctly copy the original, because when I finally sewed it so it was nice and flat, it was also too small. Grrr.

A smart quilt friend (thanks Tori) suggested I trace a section from the right side of the block and add 1/4 inch seam allowances all around. Good idea, but there were small differences between the sections... which one to trace? Trying to answer that question, looking at the block, I finally saw how the pattern was derived! (Light bulb!!!)

pattern for vintage quilt block, 11 inches square
It's two overlapping squares of the same size, one on point and one not. All it took was to measure the sides of the squares on the original block (which averaged 8.5 inches), cut them out of paper, fold the diagonals and sides, put a pin through the centers to join them, rotate the top one until the folds lined up, tape the two together, and draw along the fold lines. Voila! Now, all I had to do was cut out one of the half-points, add my quarter-inch seam allowances, and there was the perfect pattern for my new block. The rest went quite quickly, and below you can see the quilted result. (Note: I added quarter-inch seam allowances to each of the pattern pieces shown above to get the final cutting pattern.)

Robin Atkins, hand pieced, hand quilted block, Kaffe Fassett fabrics
You might be wondering why I've layered and quilted these blocks. How will they be joined to form the quilt? The answer is they won't be joined! Instead, they will be bound as separate little quilts (each 11 inches square), and then appliqued to a separate "background quilt."

Here is how they look with the binding.

vintage quilt block, hand quilted and bound by Robin Atkins

Robin Atkins, hand pieced, hand quilted block, Kaffe Fassett fabrics
Notice that the over-all color of the modern block is darker. This matches my concern about over-population of the planet. Time flies, and the population GROWS, making the world a darker place for me, as many species become stressed and obsolete, as the desert lands grow and the forests shrink, as potable water becomes polluted and scarce, as crowded people war with each other. You know. If you watch the documentaries and contribute to various environmental causes, you know. Darker.

Thus, the quilt also becomes darker as the eye travels from top to bottom. Here is how it looks with the two blocks on the background quilt, the transitioning colors from light to dark, representing about 70 years in time passing (estimating the date of the fabrics in the vintage block at approximately 1946). This is an extremely tiny period of world history, but one in which world population sky-rocketed from 2.3 billion to 7.4 billion.

Robin Atkins, quilt for 2017 La Conner Quilt Museum challenge
You can probably see the little heart beads, but if you click to enlarge the photo, you'll see them more clearly. The pair at the top represents a couple. They dive under the quilt, have some fun, and produce four lovely children (between the two blocks). These four pair up, dive under the quilt, resulting in 16 children. Under the quilts, time flies, and the population GROWS. That's m' story, and I'm sticking to it.

Now, here's a question for you loyal readers who have come so far with me on this thing.  The quilt looks really pretty the way it is. But originally, I had planned to do more beading on it.  I planned to bead several vines circling the outer border of the quilt (not the binding). Across the top of the quilt, the vines would be light green, with many green leaves, bright-colored flowers, and some critter beads/charms (bees, birds, bears, fish). As the vines trailed down the sides, they would become darker, until at the bottom they would be beaded with dark brown, black, and darkest greens, with no critters, and only a few dark flowers. The visual message (I hope) would be, "this is what happens when we overpopulate the world." What do you think... leave it like it is now or bead the borders?

Global Population Information

Think of it this way. Every single month increasing world population adds another Los Angeles AND another Chicago to the planet. That's 24 gigantic cities worth of people added EVERY year; more than 240 giant cities every 10 years. Imagine how many cities full of people will be added in your life time. Crunch the numbers and see what you think.

Evidence of heavy population demand on resources is all around us. Global aquifers are being pumped 3.5 times faster than rainfall can naturally recharge them. Eventually they will run dry, perhaps as soon as 75 years. Topsoil is being lost 10-40 times faster than it is formed.  Feeding all 7+ billion of us is increasingly difficult, impossible actually.

There is no technology solution to accommodate the increasing demand of uncontrolled global population growth. The only solution is voluntary one child per couple for a couple of generations, on a Global participation level. If all countries followed the lead of countries with the lowest birth rates (Taiwan, Spain, Portugal, South Korea, and Poland), we could reach a more sustainable Global population of 3 billion by 2100!

Please, talk about this with your child-bearing-aged kids, grand kids, students, etc. We teach environmentally sound practices in most schools, write books and make documentary films about issues like clean water, over-fishing, fracking, etc. But rarely does the topic center on overpopulation. Be proactive. Make it happen.

If you are willing to read (or listen to an audio book) to learn more about Global population, Count Down is an excellent read.

Here is a link to the previous bead embroidery pieces (and poems) I've made concerning population growth.Thank you for reading all the way to the end, and for anything you can do to help people understand what we need to do.


  1. Robin, it lifts my spirits that you are beading and quilting! Your post outlining your bout with Dupuyten's Disease added greatly to my November malaise. You were so determined and strong in seeking a solution.

    Yes I too found that fondling fibers was helpful. For me it was yarn and knitting. And color!

    You have made yet another beautiful, thoughtful piece of art! Only you would have thought to juxtapose vintage with Kaffe! You solicited opinions regarding a viney floral and fauna border. I say, do not deprive us of your fabulous beadwork. Bring it on!!

    With great admiration, Ruth Hoover

    1. Oh dear Ruth! Thanks so much for your support and encouragement. I shall post about the beading if/when I do it. :)

  2. Beading always re-enters. I have no doubt you will do it. Your pieces concerning the environment and your poetry go hand in hand. I can see more of that in a book.
    One suggestion that has helped me get back on my feet after this election is to turn the TV news off. I now start my day with Soundscpes Music Channel instead. Soothes the soul.

    1. Thanks, Barbara! Good idea to turn off the TV. I don't have TV, but I read the news. Might be time to stop for a while. Thanks for the encouragement to keep beading (and writing poetry!)

  3. They're beautiful! Sometimes I think creativity is the best way to deal with the news lately. Shining a light that will, eventually, overcome the current "darkness". You're an inspiration and a great fellow-traveler. :)

    1. Hi Barb, fellow traveler :) I agree about creativity... it's a great healer.

  4. My response to the election malaise was to bead, bead, bead and focus on good while doing so. I made 3 dolls, all full of hope and vitality. I'm so happy to see your creativity rise to the occasion, Robin, and love hearing the story of the quilt. I vote yes for the beaded border.

    1. Yes, Peggy... I've been loving your attitude and dolls. Thanks for your yes vote... I think I'll at least try putting on some to see how it looks. Hugs, R

  5. Wow Robin, I didn't know those facts about population growth, i.e.cities of new people arriving every year into a world that can't sustain all of us that are here already. I agree that this topic is not talked about. What good will it do to try to save the disappearing animals, plants, landscape, etc. when the real problem is more mouths to feed, more and more people on this fragile planet.
    I appreciate all you do to bring awareness to this problem. Your art piece is beautiful, your words are powerful. I think whatever you decide to do - leave it as-is or add more beads - will look good. Thanks again for all you do, Liz

    1. What a dear, supportive friend you are, Liz! Wow, what would I do without you? Thanks again and again for your support and encouragement.

  6. Hi Robin: I turned my despair over this election to doing things to try and improve the prognosis of what I see is about to happen. So I have turned to the electoral college, writing letters to the electors to do my best to get 32 of them to change their votes. I see by the Cabinets picks that your worry about our planet will get worse much faster if this can't happen. I put all my work aside and now know that I will start it all again, as soon as all my work either proves we can change what's happening or I grieve over it not being possible. I have fabrics at the ready to start a new project sometime this winter.

    I think yours is looking great, and I am for the vines light to dark on the borders. I know it will be fabulous because your work always is. I have been concerned about the state of our planet for a long time and I fear all the progress we have been making will go backwards for the next four years. I hear about TV programs like 19 and counting and cringe. You are wise to see what is happening, and you are also so right that the growth is not sustainable. I grow my own food in the summer. Thank you for talking about it. I fear for my great grandchildren. God Bless you.

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to write letters to the electors. I appreciate your efforts more than I know how to say. It's good to know that whatever the outcome, you will have your fabrics ready to go! Good for you that you grow your own food in the summer... must be very satisfying, AND delicious too!

    2. And organic. No bee killing pesticides used.
      Remove this if it is not appropriate to post here:

  7. I can truly empathize with your feelings after the election, you are far from alone in them. Love your work as always and think that the description of the vines sounds like it will be an absolutely lovely addition to what you have already created. Go for it!

  8. Anonymous7:40 AM

    I love the Kaffe Fasset quilt, it looks very joyful. Now, I disagree with your analysis of the World's problems as you may recall, however I feel your statement would be clearer and more powerful with a lot more beading. Kind regards. Helene H


Thanks you for joining the discussion on this post today!